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Book TV After Words

Tom Wolfe Education. (2012) 2012 Miami Book Fair Tom Wolfe, 'Back to Blood.'

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01:15:00

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Channel 91 (627 MHz)

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mpeg2video

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ac3

PIXEL WIDTH
704

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480

TOPIC FREQUENCY

Miami 21, America 10, Us 9, Afghanistan 7, Jane Robinson 6, New York 6, Carol Rasco 5, Carol 5, United States 4, Alina 4, Mr. Wolfe 4, Charlotte 4, Tom Wolfe 4, Latin America 4, John 4, Springfield 4, Manny Diaz 3, Washington 3, Mexico 3, North Carolina 3,
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  CSPAN    Book TV After Words    Tom Wolfe  Education.  (2012) 2012  
   Miami Book Fair Tom Wolfe, 'Back to Blood.'  

    November 18, 2012
    5:30 - 6:44pm EST  

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be last year. we started 20 years ago as martha's table in washington d.c. we have distributed more and more as the years have gone by because we've started newer models. especially in recent years we've distributed 10 million,11 million a year. we support programs across the united states and now over 40,000, and our funding comes from a lot of it comes from corporate marketing campaigns that we do as well as individual donors with some foundations. but we have also created a revenue-generating model which is the first book marketplace. >> host: now, ms. robinson, when you -- is there a special focus for first book? do you, do you do the preschoolers, or do you work through classrooms or what? >> guest: it's a great question. first book has actually built a
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pipeline to support all programs serving kids in need, all classrooms serving kids in need. and reading is fundamental is a good example. we have over 1900 reading is fundamental programs supported by first book as well as over 40,000 others. so headstarts, school classrooms, after school programs, mentoring, kids 0-18 are supported by first book. >> host: well, jane robinson mentioned reading is fundamental, and we're joined by carol as coe who is the president and ceo of rif, or reading is fundamental. give us the background, if you would, ms. rasco, on reading is fundamental. >> guest: well, 46 years ago marchgy mcnamara who was in the cabinet, she went to a meeting that jacqueline kennedy called of all cabinet spouses. and mrs. kennedy is said to have
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told each spouse we are each going to do something to make washington a better place for the people who live and work here every day. and mrs. mcnamara had a great reputation as a reading tutor. she tutored the wealthier children in town, and she tutored children at very, from very poor economic backgrounds. she had found one day in her tutoring how much it meant to the three boys she was tutoring at a local public school to be given a book. she had brought books that her children had had years before and had been left at home, of course. and she let each of them take a book home. well, one of the mothers came to the school the next day to return the stolen book, and they said, no, we want the child to have the book, and that started a tradition of rif when they present a book to a child of writing the child's name in it or helping the child write the name. rif does not pretend to be the
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teacher of reading. rif is here to help children, particularly those most at risk of not learning to read well and on time. that usually means poor children. we are here to help them see the joy of reading first by putting that book in their hands that they have chosen. and write the name in it. and then over recent years we have really tried to begin to stress even more the presential involvement that -- the parental involvement that needs to happen with that book if it's going to come alive. we have undergone a transition in the last year. for 34 -- we're 46 years old. for the last 34 years, we have had a large federal book grant that was not funded in the fy-'12 budget. so we are now, um, doing the kinds of things we probably should have done even more of in
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forming collaborations with our friends at first book. we have always done private fundraising, and we are stepping that up. >> host: now, do you -- the two organizations and, carol rasco, if you'd start, do you see yourself as competitors, collaborators or how? >> guest: well, we see ourselves as collaborators. we get asked that question all the time about competitors. as jane has already mentioned, we have a significant number of rif programs who purchase their books from the marketplace that she mentioned. but we have always looked for all kinds of ways to be able to collaborate, and when the federal grant went away, first book put together a wonderful proposal and came the rif with this proposal to allow us to purchase books from them in a manner that would really allow
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us to purchase about 250,000, 200,000 more books than we would normally get for the same dollars spent elsewhere. and so we're very excited that we're going to be giving this one million books over the next several months and we're at this very moment starting the first distribution of those. we're focusing as rif is doing much of our work this year on the out-of-school time, when children are out of school for the winter holiday, spring break and summer, and we're going to divide these books up among those times. rif will produce activity sheets that will go home with these books over this out-of-school time with the hope that through the school stressing it to parents or other groups that we serve -- private nonprofits -- that the parent will get engaged with reading with the child in the out-of-school time. so there's a lot of excitement.
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the first book and r irk f staff about this project right now. >> host: jane robinson? >> guest: yes, carol's exactly right. we are collaborators in the extreme. carol is a fantastic educator and has led the sector for a long time. and not too long, carol, of course. [laughter] >> guest: of course. >> guest: but we have, you know, first book has built a supply pipeline that supports programs like carol's, like reading is fundamental and many others who are doing fantastic work. our primary model has been to build until logistics that can provide tremendous access for programs and classrooms serving kids in need. because that was a huge gap that was missing when our founders founded first book 20 years ago. they -- one of them, kyle zimmer
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with whom carol is a great friend with, was volunteering here in washington, d.c. and realized that here were heros, local heroes supporting the kids who needed help the most in an environment that would work for hours and hours a day, and they were absolutely without resources. just a box of broken crayons. if they were beyond the reach of programs like rif at the time, and many, many were. so what we realized was, well, we can certainly solve one part of this problem. we can build a pipeline to get resources to them. programs like rif and others are increasingly devoted to what kind of content is on, is available to these programs and how they use that content in the class room. and we consider ourselves soldiers in the same war, taking
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on that challenge and expanding beyond what we've reached so far so we can get completely across the united states and beyond with fantastic resources. jane robinson, do you work with public libraries? >> guest: we do. we like to, um, be sure that we get brand new books that are chosen by the administrators and teachers. that's our primary focus. but we absolutely have worked with our corporate partners to supply school libraries with brand new books, and we've had multiple initiatives that focus on really replenishing libraries. as a matter of fact, right now in response to hurricane sandy's devastation we've got a web site up, and we're working with partners to, um, raise funds to
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purchase terrific replacements for libraries in the new york and new jersey area. >> host: carol rasco, have you moved into the e-book world at all? >> guest: well, not in a big way yet. but we have certainly been exploring it, and we don't discourage it. many of the schools and children we serve most have not had access to the, you know, the piece of equipment. and so we have been looking at how can we promote that, because very frankly, in addition to wanting children to have books and get them engaged -- and we know that the e-book is great way to do that for many children -- i above all do not want to look back ten years from now and say, oh, my goodness, we let another digital divide occur. we want to make sure that the
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children we're serving have the opportunity to learn how to use the e-book and what is there and what it can mean to them. so we know our friends at first book are working on that kind of thing, and i can't help but think in another year or two that'll probably be a project that we're doing together. >> host: jane robinson, you are working on e-books? >> guest: we are. we're working on a digital platform so that we canning burst boundaries of -- we can burst boundaries of all kinds of limitations for these kids. you know, if anyone is confused about whether there really is a divide, let me reassure everyone that there's a horrible gap in this country. 32%, and that is not a misstatement, 42% of the kids in the united states are from low income families. that means they simply don't have the kind of access to educational resources and books
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that children of means have. that's a lot of kids. it's over 30 million kids. and if we're going to bridge that gap or divide or inequity, whatever you want to call it, we've got to build a substantial system that can afford ably get those resources to them. that doesn't mean books are going away, but it means that digital content, digital devices and the terrific research and learning from people like the cooney center, all of these resources have got to be brought to what is called the base of the economic pyramid globally. but there's a base of the economic pyramid here in the united states too. and we've got to bridge that for the or kids. and that's what first book aims to do. as carol said, we've got a large plan to get a digital platform built, and we're about to do
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that working hand in hand with terrific organizations like rif. >> host: now, carol rasco, former first ladies barbara bush and laura bush made reading their, one of their signature issues when they were in the white house. do you see a difference in support when something like that happens, when it's that high profile? >> guest: well, we certainly did, and rif was fortunate to have both of those first ladies on their advisory committee until they went in the white house when you're forced to get off every committee you've ever served on. but the visibility that each brought with them to the white house whether they were still serving on any official board or committee was extremely helpful. and they both have foundations that have had that continued to live. so it's, it's certainly a big help when people like that in those positions of power are
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helping people see that there really are children out there who do not have a single book in the home except -- and what we hear most often when we talk to children of lesser economic means, you'll say do you have a book at home, and we know we're getting ready to hand them one, or we would never ask that. and the two most common things we hear is my mother has a book wrapped up in special cloth she keeps in a drawer, and you realize it's some kind of family bible that's very special and the people will know it or they will talk about that book with the yellow paper, and, of course, that's now going away, and there are no yellow pages in communities anymore. so i think that's difficult for all of those who had all the books we could have ever wanted whether owning them or going to the library frequently as i did in a very southern town in
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arkansas, you know, i went twice a day during the summers. there wasn't a whole lot else to do, and i loved to read. it's hard for us to belief that there are no books in a home for a child, the child lives too far from a library to walk or ride a bike if they have a bike. fitting the library into a family's schedule when there's little free time, perhaps no good transportation or they can't afford it. that is difficult. so it's, it's again critical that we believe these things we're being told, that these children are in need of one of the most basic things that most children get very early in life, and that's books. >> host: jane robinson, you'd have 60 seconds to make a pitch to somebody who may give you, your organization money and to a parent. what's your pitch? >> guest: i think the pitch is believe us, there is a gap in the united states. we've got to provide the heroes
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who are serving kids in need with the resources they need. we're losing geniuses, peter. we're losing geniuses because they're not given the educational tools, the books that they need to make their imaginations spring to life and have a rich, full life. you know, this is a work force issue, health care issue, it's a citizenry issue. people won't vote if they don't know how to read. we've got to enrich from the bottom up so that kids know they have a chance and can make a new life for themselves. >> host: carol rasco, what's your pitch? >> guest: well, today we have children entering the schoolhouse doors that are already so far behind their peers with one set of figures i often use based on a very good study that was done a number of years ago, and we had kindergarten children entering
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the school who were from welfare schools that had a listening vocabulary of 3,000 words. that sounds like a lot of words for a child to when they hear it know what it meansful however, children of upper middle income families had a vocabulary of 20,000 words. that's a huge gap. and, unfortunately, in this country we never close that gap. so we need to start early, and then we need to be ready to really pour the resources that jane discussed into the earliest years of children being in a school setting where we can try to reach them best. >> host: carol rasco is president and ceo of reading is fundamental. ms. rasco, what's your web site very quickly? >> guest: rif.org. >> host: and jane robinson is chief financial officer of first and the web site?
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>> guest: firstbook.org. first, written out. >> host: and we thank you both for being on booktv and talking about your reading programs. >> guest: thank you. >> guest: thank you. >> is there a nonfiction author or book you'd like to see featured on booktv? sent us an e-mail at booktv@cspan.org, or tweet us at twitter.com/booktv. [applause] >> well, good evening, everybody.>> >> hello, everyone. >> i'm mitchell caplan. ca >> i'm -- [inaudible] >> welcome. [applause]on b on behalf of all of us with thee miami book fair, we want to welcome you to the 29th book fair, believe it or not. [applause] this is a remarkable undertaking.it it takes the work of literally hundreds and hundreds of
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volunteers. we have a remarkable board of directors who work extremely hard at doing this year round. . none of this at all could happen without the good, good support of everyone here at miami-dade college, and let's give them a huge round of applause. [applause] >> and we're particularly appreciative of the sponsors. without the sponsors and the funding from foundations and governmental agencies, we would not be able to bring you all this wonderful literary extravaganza. >> and, of course, our friends. many of you are friends to have miami book fair. and a way that you can support this book fair and make sure that it goes on for another 29 years as well. [applause] if you, if you look at downstairs, there's a friends booth, and you're more than welcome to sign up if you'd like. i'd also like to tell you that make sure you pick up a
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fairgoers' guide on your way out. we have a remarkable program this year. tomorrow night, in fact, we start not at night, but around 4:00 with lemony snick. for all of you who have got kids -- i see her -- he's coming with his new series, and he'll be here at four o'clock followed by junot diaz, wonderful writer, and chris hayes, many of you may know him from msnbc. and he'll be there ending the program that night. we also have an incredible program that happens in spanish and other languages as well. >> and we have some more than 70 writers from different countries , from latin america and spain that will be with us as well as the featured country this year, the country of pair guy. and we invite you to the opening of the pavilion next thursday, and we will have the first lady of the country doing the honors of opening the pavilion. so please come by, learn about their culture, traditions and
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their literature throughout the whole weekend. >> and if you'll welcome -- if you'll excuse on a personal note, i've been working with alina very closely. alina's the executive director of the center here at the college. before that she was the executive director of the miami book fair for i won't tell you how many years. [laughter] it was a lot of years. >> a lot. >> and it's just been announced that alina is now the director of -- executive director of cultural affairs for the entire miami-dade college. we want to congratulate her on her new appointment as well. [applause] >> thank you, thank you. i'm looking forward to that. and part of my new responsibilities is to also work very closely with miami international film festival celebrating 30 years in march, and we have the director with us here this evening. so mark your calendars for that one as well. [applause] >> and my secret hope is that you'll see ballet with books in them, and you'll see opera with books in them.
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[laughter] so alina's influence will be everywhere, i think. >> and can i just take two more minutes of your time to see if you can join me in we can nicing mitchell for 30 years of books and books. [applause] for his leadership, for his mission. [applause] >> thank you. thank you. wow. again, alina said that we couldn't do this without our sponsors. we also couldn't do it without our publishers who support us, and we're very, very fortunate to have in our midst one of the really most brilliant publishers that we have not only in this country, but probably worldwide. his name is michael peach, and he's the publisher of little brown who is tom wolfe's publisher. if he'll stand, i would hope he
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could be recognized. mike? there he is. thank you, michael. [applause] >> welcome. >> thank you. and our sponsor, one of the really great sponsors that we've had for many, many years, they've been really huge supporters of the miami book fair, and that's wpbt, channel 2. and to get our program off the ground, i want to bring out the executive vice president and chief operating officer, delaware hour race sukdeo please, please, welcome her. thank you all. >> have a good evening. [applause] >> thank you, everyone, and welcome. my name is delores, i'm the coo for wpbt-2 which is your public television station. [applause] now, what i love about the miami book fair is that for me it represents how we should be known here in miami.
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sure, we have beautiful beaches, we've got some interesting politics. i think increasingly we'll be known for our wacky characters. but if you look to the person to your right and if you speak to the person to your left, what you will find are engaged, informed, cultured citizens and in growing numbers. we are a smarter city than we give ourselves credit for, and we need to get comfortable with that idea. i hope it's because you've been watching more public television, i hope so. [applause] [laughter] but i am sure that there is no better way to take us to the next level than to hear from a literary icon. tom wolfe was born and raised in richmond, virginia, educated at washington university and later learned a ph.d. from yale. he spent his first ten years as a newspaper man mostly doing general assignment reporting, and i bet if i called on many of you, you could easily name his
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novels; "the right stuff," "in our time," "the bonfire of the vanities" and many more, and now "back to blood" which reflects miami back to all of us. how are we going to react to that? he is credited with the birth of new journalism and the death of the american novel by some. he is the mark twain of our time. how lucky are we to have a moment in time with him? and what better way to start this conversation -- hopefully i can get them to come to the stage -- than with a published author in his own right and a man whose name is synonymous with leadership, our own former mayor, manny diaz. manny diaz, let me turn it to you. hopefully, we can get him up here, and tom wolfe. please welcome them. [applause]
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>> well, good evening, everybody. and let's get this started. if "bonfire of the vanities," you chose new york with wall street and the upper east side as your setting. in "the man in full," you chose -- [inaudible] and then for "i am charlotte simms," you wrote about college sports at a fictional college. many believe it was duke, especially since your daughter attended duke, graduated from duke. my question is, and i think what all of us want to know, is why miami? how did you come to choose it as a backdrop, and what surprised you the most about miami? >> my first purpose was to write a book on immigration. this is when i was still working on my last book, and people
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would say what are you going to work on next? and i'd say, well, i'm going to do something on immigration. and always the same response, oh, that's really interesting. and they -- [laughter] they'd go to sleep standing up like a horse, you know? [laughter] but i thought it was a really great subject. i wasn't interested in how people get in, but what they do once they're here because i didn't know. my first choice was the vietnamese in california who are there in huge numbers. they've now migrated from los angeles up towards san francisco, just like in miami in a way, there's -- the san jose mercury, a famous old newspaper is, there is now a viet-mercury. unfortunately, i couldn't speak vietnamese, and i couldn't read the paper either. i mean, just not even close. to ours. and then i heard about the
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following fact about miami: miami seems to be the only city in the whole world in which people from another country with another language and a very different culture took over at the voting machine a big, metropolitan area in just over i would say, slightly over one generation. i'm talking about the cubans. we have a havana-born gentleman here to my right, and so i said i've just got to go, i've got to go see what this is all about. i knew so little -- i still thought that the great industry was tourism in miami. and then i found out that for some time it's been shipping, including shipping that made the miami federal reserve bank have more cash than all the rest of the federal reserve banks put
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together. but now it seems to be pretty honest work. [laughter] and shipping. and i don't know if he's here tonight, an argentine journalist told me, he said miami is choice number two for everybody in latin america. only people in latin america can read the street names, that's one thing. but anyway, that -- and once i was here i knew so little, but i had a lot of friends including the mayor and chief of police john timiny. that's not a bad way to start. i say start at the top. [laughter] >> of course, when you were down here, we both told you that you had the mayor and the chief of police who had both immigrated
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to the united states in the same year, 1961, and both from an island, though an ocean apart. >> you know, i didn't realize it was the same year. that was, john was born in dublin, and i don't know how many of you really remember john's -- you probably do -- his faith. he is the ultra irishman. and when you look at him, you know you're talking to a tough irishman. and one of his colleagues today today -- told me, he said john only had to draw his pistol twice, and those were shootouts. he said the rest of them he just looked at 'em. [laughter] anyway, that's how i got started, and what a great way to start. john immediately put me on a safe boat, which i'd never heard of before, of a miami marine patrol. it was like a foamy pancake but
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25 feet long. and he goes 40 some miles an hour over water. that's fast actually. and you can't sink them unless you shoot holes through them. nobody can turn them over. but anyway, they couldn't, they couldn't have helped me more. i had a slightly nice introduction from the mayor in the big hall at freedom tower, and that's the way to meet people, i think. >> let me ask you, also, racial ..ion class antagonismings seem to permeate your novels. do you purposely look for this and then choose a location, or does a location lead to the strife and the antagonisms? >> maybe i'm bragging now, but i think so few writers want to touch the subject of race, ethnicity and all those things.
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it makes people nervous as if they're going to be run out of town or something. but i think that's america. that's what america is all about. and i never knew that i was born and raised in richmond, and there were only two types of people there, black and white. that was it. most of the whites were white anglo-saxon protestants. so when i went to get my first newspaper job in springfield, massachusetts, and people kept saying what are you, i didn't know what they were talking about. [laughter] and, but springfield was a city where people who couldn't get a job in boston, couldn't get a job in new york would come to springfield, a city of about 170,000. and everybody was either irish, italian or they were french-
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canadian. and it was important to them to know where you came from. i said, well, i came from senegal valley. what? [laughter] but that was an education, just being in springfield. and this country is, it's about the, it is the great meeting place of people from all over the world. and somehow they get here, and they're free. it's -- and once, well, it's a fantastic accomplishment. i started to say america's a wonderful country, but it's -- [inaudible] >> there are some, of course, they probably don't know what they're talking about, but there are some that criticize some of your books that some of the characters are one-dimensional or simplistic or play to stereotypes. >> i think that with pride. so would dickens. [laughter] try to find some complicateed
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side of the great lawyer in -- [inaudible] i'll send you a postcard, the name are come to me. the name will come to me. i brushed -- i brush that off. >> good. what about the main character in "back to blood," even "the new york times" critic had to admit he was a real character. there are moral choices that your characters make that distinguish them from those around them. what do you feel that nester had in common with some of your other protagonists, and more specifically, what did his morality or choices have in common? >> i didn't mean to write about, when i started out, i didn't mean to write about a cuban boy. i do things a little bit better. there's a subject that interests
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me, a locale that interests me, and i walk b in, and i wait for the characters to arrive. which they inevitably do. and probably because i got a great introduction to the police but not only john, but angel, one of the great figures in the police force here in my humble opinion. and they would steer me in this direction, and it was always, it was always the right, it was always the right direction. just be endlessly grateful. john couldn't be here tonight, he's in bahrain running the -- i'm not sure what he runs, but it's heavy stuff. [laughter] >> and, and, by the way, thank you for angel, for mentioning angel, dedicating the book -- >> well, let me just say angel had the greatest voice and temperament that i've ever seen.
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angel was -- well, let me put it -- angel was used for talking hostages out of jumping off of buildings. when there's some crisis that comes to miami, they wouldn't put the chief on television, they'd put angel, because he had this voice that could calm everybody down. and he was also, he had been a very brave undercover policeman. but that, it's that voice that i remember. and it was never put on. it was never put on. he had great charm, but it was just himself. and i was just so shocked when angel died a couple of years ago. anyway, a great man. >> he was. tom, what was it about hialeah that made you zero in on it? [laughter] the way you did?
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how were you correctly, i think, able to zero in on the fact that that is a pretty important aspect of understanding the neutrality of cuban culture in miami? >> well, i arrived here thinking it was a race track still. it is still there, but they had things like quarter horse races and this and that. because it was the greatest track just to look at in america. there were flamingos in the infield, and the way they kept -- and not in a cage. the way they kept it, they planted these shrubs around the infield that they require in order to keep their pink color. if they don't have this to eat, they turn white, and they feel terrible. anyway, it was a gorgeous place. but then when i got here thanks to oscar corral and his mother-in-law and some others i found out that the real little
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havana in latvia is hialeah. but it's not very little anymore. about 225,000 people. and that was the population of miami within the city limits. >> within miami proper? just over 400,000. >> i thought little havana was around -- [inaudible] and if you wield a cup of cuban coffee, you watch the old men play checkers across the street, you'd been there. [laughter] >> well, speaking of oscar, you have a incredible reputation for the amount of research that you do when you're writing a book. how do you compare the research you did for "charlotte simmons" or "man in full" to the research you did in miami for "blood," and i don't think you've ever done this before, so what was it like having a camera following
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you around during your research? i know that when i was in office, oscar corral followed me around all the time, and i didn't particularly like it, so -- [laughter] >> you'll see for yourself what happened to me when oscar followed me around. he's on after we arement the one thing i couldn't do was let any cameraman in on private interviews. >> right. >> there's nothing to put a conversation to a halt faster than a tv cram. camera. other than that, and my posture wasn't very good. that's the first thing i noticed. [laughter] anyway, i think he did a brilliant job. >> a few years back you came to miami at my invitation, spoke about art and its contribution to the city of life. in your books art, especially high-end art, play an important part in setting the scenes, especially art hanging in some
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rich guy's apartment in manhattan. and, of course, you use the new art movement in miami as part of the backdrop in "back to blood." could you take a minute to talk about art and what it means to cities in america today? >> art is, it used to be totally underestimated. now it's a driving force. artists are the best roles they adopt is in america. i mean, i see this in new york all the time. they move to some god forsaken neighborhood in the worst part of brooklyn, the next thing you know the rich can't wait. [laughter] to pour in and buy, and buy territory. as a matter of fact, look at the success of winwood. that's the artists as real estate development. sometimes they don't treat them nicely. in providence, rhode island, where you may know the name buddy chauncey was mayor, buddy
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was a multifaceted figure -- [laughter] but he got the bright idea of, he talked to real estate people who had a lot of just kind of dead property, warehouse and so on in the middle of providence to let artists use these lofts for really token, you know, $50 a month, that kind of thing. and it was the smartest thing he ever did. well, different definitions of smart. he suddenly found corporations were moving in because the artists were all in this particular area. the civic improvements were happening. they used to -- the rivers there in connecticut used to be covered in the pavement for more parking space.
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there's the river underneath. he had all the parking, asphalt taken away, and each week he had a boat come down the river with sort of spraying incense and music was playing on the boat, and people would gather around that river and chock a block. now, that's the power, that's the power of art. and it doesn't matter what the artists are like. just as long as they are, just as long as they are artists. on the spiritual side, i don't really know. [laughter] because i'm baffled here. every well-to-do art collector has an aa and an art assistant
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who chooses for him or her what he or she likes. oh, i didn't know i liked that. [laughter] but it's, it just works. it's a form of religion. i really believe that. in which you don't have to, you don't have any morality, you just have places to go to worship. [laughter] >> by the way, we're going to -- i'm going to ask one more question, and then we're going to open it up to all of you who i'm sure have lots of questions for tom. finally, tom, after "bonfire of the vanities" you got into a few tiffs with other authors about what real writing is. you guys were particularly nastiest with mailer, updike and irving, referring to that -- if i remember correctly -- as the three stooges. were you just trying to start a fight just to be provocative? there seemed to be a choosing up of sides, and many along the
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43rd street corridor at the time new york magazine often cited the scene with mailer and company. do you think this fight has had a negative impact on reviewers of your book? in other words, do you think they use each new book as a chance to get even? >> in a word, yes. [laughter] i couldn't resist. everyone always said never answer a review, it's crazy, it shows you've been hurt, you're sensitive. but i had three of them, and they were all old men. and old men who are successful in anything, they don't sit around writing reviews. but these guys did. john updike, who was so old in public print he'd complain of his bladder problems. [laughter] norman mailer who had two rusted-out hips, and he was going around on crutches. and john -- i kind of made fun
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of john irving. he was pushing 60, which really isn't all that old. [laughter] and there were three of them, so i had the perfect title, my three stooges. [laughter] and i said a stooge -- this is literally true -- a stooge on stage is someone who sets up the lines for the comedian. and i said, this is all they've done, they set up lines for the comedian. but a lot of people never forgave that. the piece is called "my three stooges." the author happened to think it was brilliantly funny, but many people thought i'd still made a terrible gaffe by saying what i really meant. this is not true of many, but, you know -- of manny, but, you know, a gaffe to a politician is when a politician says what he really means. [laughter] and that's what's considered. he should have known better than that. and the reason i have a kind of
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long distance love of biden, joseph biden, is that there was a big outbreak of some disease in mexico, very contagious. i can't remember the exact disease. and he was asked by a reporter would you -- he had a daughter who sometimes went to mexico. would you advise your daughter to go to mexico tomorrow? he said, hell, no. she'll catch -- oh, the denunciation of him telling the super truth were unbelievable. so you have to honor the politicians that commit a lot of gaffes, i think. oh, by the way, i shouldn't -- officially this is a program that's about "back to blood," but it really has to do with manny diaz. on friday will be the publication, the launch of
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"miami transformed." and i haven't read it. >> you're in it though. you're in it. >> i'm in it? >> you're in it. you're absolutely in it. >> why didn't you give me an advance copy? >> when tom came down, there was a big dispute between chief timiny and tom as to what really transformed cities, and, of course, tom was talking about art, but the chief, of course, was all about security, the police department and safe neighborhoods that transform cities. so that's the way he's in there. >> well, you know john better than i do, but i couldn't agree with you more. >> are you going to help me out with some questions? thank you for holding back on that last one. >> let's thank these two gentlemen here. [applause] we do have time for some questions, and i would really hope that they'll be questions. that would be unique for the miami book fair. [laughter] but we'd love them to be questions. and if you can line up behind
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this gentleman, we'll get to as many as we can. yes. >> a book or two ago you wrote a description of hip-hop music that was so on the money that i thought to myself, tom wolfe really gets hip-hop music, and tom wolfe really likes hip-hop music. two questions. do you like hip-hop music and, second, as a writer do you do anything special to really get inside the brain of something that's so foreign to you? or have you been doing that for so long that it's just second nature? >> well, in answer to your first question, no, i don't like hip-hop. [laughter] >> thank you. >> but i do like country and western. [laughter] and one of my favorite titles is "that ain't my truck in her driveway." [laughter] that says so much about the -- there's not going to be any saab
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or lexus or toyota in that girl's driveway. isn't that great? it's just wonderful. that ain't my truck in her driveway. that's why i like western. oh, god shift me through the goalpost of life. that's another one. i won't go on. and railroad music. [laughter] ♪ on the wabash cannonball. all the railroad songs are good, not a bad railroad song. i've never had a chance to say this before. [laughter] >> mr. wolfe, i remember the last time you were here. actually, someone in the audience asked why don't you write about miami, and you said, no, carl -- [inaudible] has already done a good enough job for that. i'm not holding you up to it, i really enjoyed your book, but did you feel any pressure having read other authors from miami to do something different, or were you inspired by them? i'm just curious about your process on that. >> well, carl is in a league by himself. i've read everything -- i
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think -- every word that he's ever written. he's brilliant in the sociological sense without making it seem sociological. and the, he writes the thrillers, but instead of finding a body on page 3, you find a guy who falls down in a strip club. [laughter] and you go on from there. he's absolutely, he's absolutely brilliant. i wouldn't even think of topping carl. i don't read many people who, i think, have done miami justice because they don't really look around. a lot -- they want to write about south beach. and there are certainly things to be written about south beach, but there are other parts of miami. and they cannot -- they tend not to write about it. of course, i haven't read
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everything. maybe they have, but i haven't seen it. >> yes, the next one. >> hi, mr. wolfe. sex plays such a big role in your books, and a lot of your characters are really driven by it. i remember when i saw you in new york maybe five years ago, you told the audience that sex was god's little joke. what did you mean by that? >> wait a minute, say that again? [laughter] >> i saw you in new york about five years ago. you were reading and also a latin jazz ensemble was playing. it was at barnes & noble near nyu. and near the end you looked at the audience, and you said sex is god's little joke. what did you mean by that? >> sex is the -- >> [inaudible] >> i still believe that. [laughter] just read the papers today and yesterday. [laughter] and you'll understand. i mean, you know, you can -- you have all these ambitions.
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particularly it was true you can have all of these ambitions, be you can't get rid of that urge. [laughter] and it's going to, it's going to torment you. it's god's little joke because god says you can do whatever you want, you're going to procreate, and we're going to have more of your kind whether you want it or not. that's why i'm very curious about what's going to happen with a country so full of unwed mothers. it's a tough thing to pull off, and it's very hard to be ceo of a bank as a -- oh, and also be a mother, a good mother. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> so --
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>> god's little joke, sometimes it isn't funny though. [laughter] >> hi, it's good to be here, and i'm an immigrant from the bronx, new york. [laughter] and i was just wondering were you able to get by with or without spanish? as a emigre, i find it very difficult not to get along well without spanish. also, how is your salsa dancing? >> [inaudible] >> how is your salsa dancing? >> oh, i'm great at the tango. >> no, no, no, that's argentinean. it has nothing to do with the cuban culture. yeah. >> the salsa's kind of beyond me. >> but the spanish, i'm interested in how you got along with or without the spanish. are you fluent? did you get fluent? did you have an interpreter with you? what did you -- how did you
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amass your ability to transform this town into english that is primarily a spanish -- >> well, i learned only about 45 minutes ago that i made a mistake, a glaring mistake. i was pointing out that because "the miami herald" years ago when a massive immigration was coming in of some cubans and latin americans generally, the herald was, broadly speaking, against it. and that are a lot of, i think, latins who resented the stand that they were taking. so it came to be called i thought it's the -- [speaking spanish] >> it is. >> now, i was just informed that that's really not correct spanish. that it should be -- i'm just asking your opinion -- no yo
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creo a la herald. which would you use if you used it? >> you know, i don't really know. i'm not -- [laughter] and i think that by this town not becoming a bilingual town, i mean, it has over the years children that are being taught in the public school, but there's still not a blanket statement that this is a bilingual town, and i think that's the flavor that's missing. that our african-american children, that our caucasian children are not being brought up to speak both spanish and english. and i just want to be a stand for that, that that's what needs to happen here. [applause] >> thank you. >> yeah. >> hello. um, i'm referring to -- >> please speak into the mic. you can pull it down. >> speak into the mic. >> thank you. >> i will.
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how's that? >> good. >> okay. i'm referring to "charlotte simmons," and i'm wondering if you transgendered into "charlotte simmons," if you think this is any hope for young college women -- i'm a college teacher -- and i'm wondering if you think there's hope for college women these days? >> you mean in general terms? when i wrote "i am charlotte simmons," i went to many different colleges, and it was not meant to be duke. [laughter] but my daughter was at duke, and i'd named it dupont, sort of close to duke. and i had gotten the architecture like duke, but honestly, it was supposed to be entirely fictional. anyway, the saying among undergraduates at that time -- except at duke -- was if she doesn't come across on the
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fourth date, that's it. today it's a little different. if she doesn't come across by the second date. and i was talking to one student, i was bringing this up recently, and he said what's this about dates? [laughter] and maybe that's it. but now this was a theory that i think is worth paying attention to. i think it was oscar corral's theory. tell me if i'm right, oscar. the ubiquity, the use everywhere of cell phones which also a take pictures just as ipads take pictures has gotten down some of the wildness at colleges. everybody loves to take out
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their camera. you're doing something absolutely insane. and this haunts people. the film is developed, and somehow it gets in the wrong hands, it gets on youtube. youtube loves these wild college parties. and it's making people much more careful. i like this theory. i can't, i can't really say whether it's true or not, but wouldn't that be interesting if there were a good effect of information technology? [laughter] >> let's take three more questions. the three people who are in line. >> mr. wolfe, um, i'm a native miamian, and thanks to you about 20 years ago there were three gentlemen running across i-95, um, asking if they could help my husband and i. and i knew what was going down
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having read "bonfire of the vanities." they weren't coming to help me at all. [laughter] and we were robbed at gunpoint. but i've since lived here for a long time and raised three children, and it's a wonderful city. i love miami, and i just wondered after you having done your research and meeting all these interesting characters that we clearly have no shortage of here, if it's the kind of place that you think you could live. >> well, i think there's no blanket statement that i think i could make because there's such variety in miami. i don't know these statistics for single mothers and things like that, you probably do, but it's, it's such a complicated, it's really such a complicated subject. but it wouldn't hurt people to cut down a little bit, seems to me.
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>> do you think you could live here? do you think you could -- >> oh, sure. i've been looking at -- the prices have been going up in the price. i was told you could come to miami and you could get a four or five-bedroom apartment down near the ocean for, you know, $400,000. [laughter] which a lot of people can swing. but it's reverse. the real estate decline hit miami long before the recession of 1987. but i hear you can't get those great bargains. >> no, you can't. thank you. >> anymore. >> two more questions. two more questions. just the two people that are left. i'm sorry. >> mr. wolfe, at the beginning of the "bonfire of the vanities," a mayor is told by a
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mop "back to blood," and i notice now from the title of your book, aside from the great phrase, is there any symbolism to the fact that you -- >> tell me that phrase again? >> "back to blood." >> oh, back to -- [laughter] you've got it. i felt i had to explain in the prologue to the book this was not wet blood. although if there are any horror fans who would like that, they could interpret it any way they want. but it was bloodlines. and i do honestly believe in the age in which religion is fading particularly among educated people -- speaking of gas, some quote is it's kind of a gaffe to admit that you're religious. any university today, not any university, but many, many. you could be in the english department and you say you don't
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believe in the theory of evolution, they'll find a way to get you out. it's unfortunately true. and i think in an age like that people are going -- everybody wants to be able to believe in my theory, believe in something absolutely. everybody wants to believe that their own beliefs are chiseled in stone if not by god, then by darwin. and i think it's naturally, it's quite natural to retreat to your, your own people. and matter of fact, after 9/11 in new york this is how you have two kinds of allegiances. the reverend jerry falwell and
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pat robertson both announced that the 9/11 was the result of homosexuality in america. and which was pretty farfetched. but i said, wait a minute, they're both from virginia! jerry falwell's from lynchburg, i went to the same college, what are they doing? what do you think they're doing? and that's "back to blood." they're both virginians, and you can't go around in front of me talking about virginians in that, in that manner. so i think often we have two sets of beliefs. if you want to hear more of this theory thing, ity -- i think that everybody identifies themselves with a status group which if its beliefs were carved in stone, would make the
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group -- not yourself -- the group the most important in the world. i mean, i've been, i was in a country store during the second world war, and here were these three old, good old boys from north carolina just talking, and one of them says, you know -- they were talking about the war, second world war -- he says it all seems to lead back to this guy hitler. [laughter] he said instead of saying -- sending all these boats with supplies over to europe, why don't we just go shoot him? and another of the good old boys says, well, you know, i don't think -- i'm sure it's not that simple. you can't just go over there and shoot him. i said, i'll shoot him, you just get me a boat. just get me over there. [laughter] so even then it's probably, it may not be as easy to do.
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he says, i'll tell you what i'll do, our government never thought of this. i'll walk to the front door, ring the bell, and when he comes to the door, i'll shoot him. [laughter] and another of the good old buys said i'm sure it's not that simple. he's probably got a wall around the stuff. you can't just go barging in. okay, here's what i'm going to do. i'm going to hide my rifle underneath a raincoat, and i'm going to go around to the back of the place, and when it gets dark, i'm going to climb over and hide behind a tree. and in the morning when he comes out to pee, i'll shoot him. [laughter] ..
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they want to go there, shoot hitler if the government doesn't do it for them, and they think the government always is in conflict, and they are perfectly comfortable being in that rural status group, but if one walked in with a suit rather than bib overalls, that's hell to pay because you also believe in a certain way to wear, and i've discovered that i'm behind the times in miami. i turn up to places with a necktie, and, oh, i don't feel
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bad, but things change, and, believe me, what people wear every man and every woman thinks about it a lot, a lot. it may be just to stay in alignment with your status. you're not trying to outdress anybody, but trying to stay where you are, and anyway, i think it's the greatest subject in the world. [laughter] >> thank you. our last question. >> by the way, tom, i hear there's a will the more people wearing that in north carolina. [laughter] >> i would not be surprised because north carolina, every year, brings in so-called guest workers to pick the cotton. picking cotton is about the worst job in the world.
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it's always at the height of the heat of the summer, and those little bowls dried up to sharp points. it's extremely unpleasant. you cannot find innative born north carolina with any description who will pick cotton so they bring in guest workers. they are all from latin america, and they do -- they do all of the hard, all of the hard work, and most, they are happy enough to get it. >> let's go to the last question. >> i'm from colombia, live here for 20 years, and, actually, i got the idea to interview all my friends that came from different countries for a book which
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gladly you wrote about all the immigrants coming to miami. my question for you is if that book will be published? you have such a unique way to see it. [inaudible] >> it will be published in spanish. the hold up is translation. >> yeah. >> if i finished the book on time -- [laughter] like, six months ago, there wouldn't be this hold up. [laughter] all of my books have. printed in spanish, and i've -- i've always been able to do pretty well reading -- >> right. this particular one sold, special for us because you write about our past and the impact in the city. thank you so much. >> oh, you're certainly welcome. [applause] >> yes.
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>> newest book, "little america: the war within the war for afghanistan," when you talk about little america, what are you talking about? >> i'm talking about the remarkable community that the americans built in the decemberers of -- deserts in in afghanistan, back when unknown to the countryman, there were dozens of american engineers there back in the 40s and 50s digging canals, building dams, helping to nation build in afghanistan. the same terrain that president obama's troops surge unfolded in over the last couple years. in my history of obama as surge, astart back in the 1940s in this remarkable period of american assistance to afghanistan, a period of great optimism when we built this town there that the afghans called "little america"
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complete with a co-ed high school, a swimming pool with they would swim together, a club house to get a gin and tonic. i use that as the opening for the book that talks about the great hope and traj ji -- tragedy in afghanistan today. >> does little america still exist? >> it does. it's the capital of helmand province, looks nothing like it did then, the suburban homes, the white walls now built over. there's no more swimming pool, and it's not quite as safe of a place as it was six decades unfortunately. >> for americans, six decades is a long time, but for the afghan community, it's not a long time, is it? >> they still remember this peer. i remember going out and traveling through the helmand province in 2009, and a man
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asked me and the marine colonel i was with whether we nude mr. and mrs. learner. they were the couple that taught him i english years ago. he had no concept that america was 300 million people, and we should know everyone else, but they remember with great fondness this period of american engagement and far it far more foundly than they think of the current american period, the period of our stablization activities there today unfortunately. >> now, haven't there been several starts and stops and boom and busts, hopeful periods in our history with afghanistan? >> there has. you know, this is -- the 50s and 6 os were a period of great optimism, the soviet invasion,
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and after the taliban were toppled, after the 9/11 attacks, there was a period of great optimism that afghanistan would be able to build a stable, democratic society, but we took our eye off the ball as many americans know focusing on iraq, and that allowed the taliban to surge back in, and unfortunately, i think way we are seeing now is a period of a mixed bag if you will. there's gains paid for by the lives and limbs of many americans, many american service members, and we have beaten back the taliban in places. security has improved, but the question 1 to whether any of that can be sustained, whether the afghan government, army and police force, will be able to take the baton from the american forces as they start coming home over the next couple of years. >> imperial life in the em rolled city about